You've got 7 seconds to impress me: How we size up men in next to no time
Would you pass ‘the seven-second test’?
‘It takes only seven seconds for us to judge another person when we first meet them,’ says Linda Blair, clinical psychologist and author of Straight Talking.
‘It’s not a conscious process, so we don’t even realise we’re doing it - but it goes back to our primitive roots when we couldn’t afford to make wrong decisions.’
Under pressure: We subconsciously judge people within the first seven seconds of meeting them
Judi James, author of The Body Language Bible, agrees: ‘Judging other people in the first few seconds of meeting them is part of our survival response. So, although we might understand that it’s a flawed and prejudiced way of evaluation, we can’t stop ourselves doing it.
‘We’re looking primarily to see if we should feel threatened, but we also make several assumptions about attraction and personality. This is also known as the attribution effect.
‘Because we tend to be time-poor, we use assumption as a short-cut, meaning if you don’t get it right first time you might not get another chance.’
But she warns: ‘Although we instantly judge others, we slip up on signals we give out, meaning we lose ground by arriving at business or social events looking dour, anxious, shy or hostile, usually without realising it.
‘We’re happy to warm up as we go along, but we should put in some effort to hit the ground running - defining who we are and what we’re like accurately at first meeting.’
Here’s our expert guide to passing the seven-second test:
- Take a moment before you meet other people. Check your appearance and breathe out gently to remove tension and calm any nerves caused by shyness or anxiety, says Judi.
- Pull yourself up to full height because it will make you look confident, and relax muscle tension that can make you appear stressed.
- Don’t forget to turn your phone off or to silent, says image consultant Karen Gillam.
- Smile! When you smile at someone they will usually smile back, so it’s the perfect way to strike a rapport, says Karen. But make sure your smile is real. A natural smile will fade slowly: switch it on too fast or let it drop too soon and it doesn’t feel sincere.
- Make sure you have your bag in your left hand so that your right is free for handshakes. A University of Iowa study found a solid handshake is more important than dress or appearance when establishing an impression in an interview.
- If you look grim, unhappy or anxious, people will assume that’s how you are.
- ‘Be interested in the other person,’ advises Linda. ‘Studies show that when shown seemingly identical pictures of the same woman, people find one image more attractive. It’s always the photo where the woman’s pupils are dilated, which happens when we’re interested in another person.’
- But don’t invade their personal space: ‘A friendly but non-threatening distance to stand from someone is at about arm’s length,’ advises counsellor and trainer Anne Nicholls.
- Use open gestures, rather than folding your arms or crossing your legs.
- Observe the person you’re speaking to and mirror the amount of eye contact they make and their speaking volume and speed.
- Pay the occasional compliment — ‘I like your dress’ or whatever — but don’t be insincere or overdo it, or you’ll come across as a crawler.
- Finally, although your appearance plays second fiddle to body language, it does have an impact, explains Karen. Make sure your outfit suits the occasion, your shoes are polished and don’t dowse yourself in perfume.
For more information, visit annenichollscounselling.com and karengillam.co.uk.
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